It turns out I’ve been car-less for over three years now. Don’t get me wrong, aside from the eight month bike adventure, I’ve had the use of a mate’s car (almost) whenever needed. But I haven’t owned one. I haven’t commuted in a car, I haven’t needlessly blocked up a car park trying to turn a giant car around and I haven’t run over anyone’s toes with a car. Just some of the things I don’t miss there.
I’m not anti-automobile, aside from their emissions. I can’t support the part of vehicles that literally pipes poisonous gas into the air and chokes school children. No matter how many wallies Amazon chuck on the internet to tell me that choking school children is a necessary cost to which the benefits far outweigh, I’ll never succumb to the exhaust pipe’s tantalising ways. I’m just not that way inclined.
However, I do see the benefit of the little metal pods. When driven respectfully and treated as a privilege, cars help us go many times our normal daily walking range. Far away ends of the country can be accessed in a matter of hours; a journey that would have once taken weeks. When adequately equipped and driven in the right direction, they can save lives. And I’m not going to deny that I made use of several vehicles during my monster bike ride. When the bike inevitably broke down, old el motorist was there to ferry me to the nearest bike shop and back. I’d still be out there somewhere if they hadn’t.
The truth, though, is a lot of us don’t need one. We’ve become accustomed to them, convinced we need one. Our very dependence on them drives us towards a deeper dependence on them, as inactivity leads to poor fitness which leads to poor health and heightened auto-dependency, the circle continues. Break the chain, if you can, when you can.
It’s actually not as difficult as you might think, either. Firstly, try to patiently walk yourself through the mindful removal of yourself from the driver’s seat. Think of your body and consider all it was capable of before we began down the evolutionary path of motoring. Then try to envisage what your strengths might be, if sagging into a springy seat for a few hours after work wasn’t how you travelled; climbing, running, swimming? Our muscles long to be used. Reconnect with yourself, appreciate your body and start dropping in little actions to show it.
While out walking the streets, I often notice the long lines of slow-moving vehicles. Cars are ideal for people who love queuing. Do people love queuing, though? Honestly? I find it funny when motorists complain about an “empty cycle lane”, while failing to see the greater problems a “full road” creates. The cyclists on the cycle lane have arrived already. Try distancing yourself from your habitual tendencies and see if there’s ‘another way’. Perhaps there’s a short journey you often make that you could sub-in a new form of transport for?
It’s unrealistic to suggest everyone gets rid of their car and to expect it happens overnight, but I believe a shift towards more thoughtful motoring is possible. A culture that considers driving as a privilege, not a right, stands to gain more collectively. Thinking outside the box before taking a journey can enlighten and result in some surprising and memorable adventures. You also see more, absorb more and learn more when travelling below 100km/h.
On my car-less journey, I’ve been on some incredible adventures in New Zealand, both in Auckland and beyond. Auckland’s Regional Parks are accessible by public transport, bike and on foot. And some of the national coach services allow you to travel in far greater luxury than your 1990 Speedwagon. From short camping treks in the Waitakere Ranges to a weekend cycle trip to Shakespear Regional Park and a full blown mini-break in Russell, it’s public and clean and healthy transport for the win.
We’re all at different points in our addiction, but as humans, we can all appreciate similar things. Saving money, better health, less stress, hassle-free parking, improved time-management and discovering new local spots are just some of the benefits you’ll stumble across once you begin the weaning process. Start planning that one kilometre walk that you’d normally drive today.